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Cheshire East Council has welcomed the government’s move to bolster the status of neighbourhood plans in the planning process.
The recent announcement by housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell closes a loophole which had previously weakened the influence of neighbourhood plans and the ability of local planning authorities and communities to resist unsustainable development.
In future, planning authorities and inspectors at appeal will not be able to favour planning applications simply on the basis of a modest shortfall in a borough-wide housing land supply, where a neighbourhood plan is in place.
Where a neighbourhood plan allocates sites for development, and the local authority can demonstrate it has a three-year supply of housing land, the policies in the neighbourhood plan will outweigh any shortage of housing sites in the wider area. Councils should have a five-year supply of housing in place but policies can be deemed ‘out of date’ if they do not.
Across Cheshire East there are currently five neighbourhood plans in place but there are as many as 40 in the pipeline.
Neighbourhood plans that are already passed can be reviewed but the minister’s announcement, to be followed next year by the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, allows parishes currently drawing up their proposals to review their site allocations.